Posts Tagged PR

Does talent matter?

Does talent matter? Of course it does. But how that talent is deployed within an organizational design matters more.

Every day and nine times on Sunday you pick Michael Jordan first (sorry Hakeem and Sam) for kickball, basketball or whatever because talent is talent and like every coach or manager in the world would say you can’t coach talent. People have it or they don’t.

Most of us lead highly matrixed (particularly in PR and marketing) teams so I would never argue with the virtue to hire the smartest, most talented people you can find. But it won’t matter if you can’t put those people into a system that makes the most of that talent at scale and over time.

It took Michael Jordan seven seasons (and a banged up Lakers team) to win his first NBA Championship. It took getting him into the vaunted triangle offense and building a supporting cast of characters around him for him to became the greatest basketball player ever. Without that triangle offense (what we office workers would call organizational design) Michael Jordan, dare I say, may have become the Dr. J of his time: great talent, amazing jumping ability and bring-the-house-down dunks but not the greatest ever.

In public relations and marketing, how you organize talent matters immensely because of the need for scale, repetition and consistency every day. No one thinks of it, but PR is closer to operating like finance than you think. Just like finance with its need to consistently report the same figures across multiple channels, PR and marketing programs and messages must be repeated consistently plus the added degree of difficulty in localizing those programs at a consumer level all around the world. It would be like the CFO having to report earnings or a Form 10-K simultaneously in multiple languages, media and channels in Asia, Europe and North America everyday.

That’s today’s marketing.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 1.38.40 PM

The only way to ensure that is an organizational design that allows your people to focus on executing programs instead of wasting time with administration or office politics that are typical of lower functioning companies. Michael Jordan wouldn’t be the legend he is now if he spent his career worrying about where his teammates should be standing when the ball was in play or if Scottie Pippen was upset about the email exchange from earlier in the day. The triangle offense and great personnel management took care of that and allowed Jordan to be much more than his God-given talent.

Unless you are Bruce Almighty’s boss, you can’t control for how many uber talented people were born in 1975 and are now in the job market. But you can control for where you put those people once you find them.

When I got to LinkedIn to run international corporate communications, there were essentially two PR teams: the one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. (which served as the hub for PR agency teams in 6 European countries). The two were loosely tied but served different agendas. After opening and launching offices in India and Australia I set to organize the international PR functions into a single group that worked in concert with the U.S.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t about staffing at all.

PR in Europe was being led by two incredibly hard working and sharp people – who spent a big chunk of their time managing and administering 6 different PR firms in 6 different countries. The rest of their time was spent managing internal teams in London and reporting into Mountain View. Not enough time was being spent on executing actual strategies and programs in each of these countries that drove member growth and engagement with the product. 

We reorganized the internal and agency structure to allow them all to execute on market and customer facing programs and less time reporting to each other. Instead of my internal team serving as the administrative hub in London to each of 6 agencies operating in each of the 6 countries, we moved to a single agency (5 less invoices, contracts, weekly calls and monthly reports) with the hub relocated to Spain. And, in this new model the agency served as hub (not my internal staff) and was comprised of a multicultural and multilingual team that could execute media relations and content campaigns from central Europe into each of the 6 countries. It allowed my remaining internal PR staffer to have a single point of contact on the agency team, which freed up his time to coordinate strategic direction with LinkedIn leadership in London and Mountain View.

I can’t tell you how much money we saved, but that happened, too.

– Jose Mallabo

 

, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Media relations is a wee portion of brand communications

I remember not too long ago that the “PR guy” was the guy who wrote press releases and called down a list of reporters to ask if they got the release or not.

I swear. Like acid wash jeans — this happened!

While I think it’s been fascinating to watch the art of story telling make its way into PR and communications work, I think it’s even more important to see how the convergence of traditional PR with areas that might have been called marketing in the past is changing the way we think of PR and how we organize the function — whether it is in-house or on the agency side. I’ve been interviewing and prospecting for clients over the last 5 months and I can usually tell by the line of questioning whether or not the opportunity is going to be a good fit or not.

When a prospective employer or client asks me about my media contacts the giant reg flag goes up and I start looking for the exit signs. But when the questions are about engaging the right audiences using a mix of tactics and levers I think: “Winner, winner chicken dinner!”

So many companies go to PR people to help fix the business or make management happy that they lose sight of why you would initiate a communications campaign and they go into the market shopping for tactics instead of results. Here are some questions I’d ask if my boss told me to go get some PR help:

  1. What are we solving for?
  2. What exactly do you expect to get with more ‘coverage’?
  3. How should we integrate it with social, marketing, employee communications and the brand?

The answers to 1 and 2 are often intertwined in some sloppy hot mess about driving sales or the stock price or the b-word that drives strategic communications people the battiest: buzz. Whoever sold and popularized that BS term “buzz marketing and PR” needs to be dunked in a vat of ice and forced to watch re-runs of the first season of Seinfeld. If you can nail down the business objectives and explain that coverage is no panacea then and only then do you move on to 3.

This is organizational design and the only way you get to keep your job a year from now when someone asks why what’s on Facebook isn’t aligned with what’s on the blog and in the press coverage.

The best PR functions I’ve seen of late are built like this:

At the heart is the brand — including the stories and messages that work to connect with people over the long term — supported by an integrated effort of all the areas a person could come into contact with it and your product. Amazon and Apple have raised the bar very high here . . . and have wired people to expect a similarly consistent and high-level experience with every other brand and story they come into contact with — including yours.

So, who is the PR person today?

A story teller who can organize campaigns at the brand level and across all these domains. Let me know if you are in the market for one, because I may know a really handsome, witty guy who will ask you incessantly: “So, what are we solving for?”

– Jose Mallabo 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

The Message of Mitt

I’m not a political blogger.  I am, though, a voter and a PR/messaging guy with a blog who has been devouring the drama of the race for the G.O.P. nomination like bacon in the morning.

You don’t have to be interested in politics to appreciate the war of words that’s been playing out over the Republican debates the past couple of months.  But if you are a PR person it’s really interesting to wonder how Mitt Romney messages his campaign going forward.

He entered the race on the platform of:  “I’m not a politician, I’m a business man from the private sector.” The idea is that sets up the jobs creation narrative in what he did at Bain Capital.

Mitt Romney

He’s fed the American public a steady diet of messaging that argues we don’t need another career politician into the White House.  We need a business man who’s created jobs in the private sector.

I can see how that might be a tasty morsel for people to take home and kick around at the dinner table.

Not so fast.

Having spent 20 years in corporations, I can without any hesitation, say companies are not like countries.  In business, bosses fire employees.  In a democracy, the rank and file can fire their leaders.

Big difference, grasshopper.

More importantly the loss in South Carolina to career politician Newt Gingrich under the specter of his missing tax returns presents not just a chink in the business man messaging armor – it’s like a West facing wall fell off the house.  And here comes the storm that started in Iowa when Newt called him out with my favorite sound bite of all the debates: “Let’s be candid, the only reason you didn’t become a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.”

It begs the question if being a politician is pejorative, why would you want to be president?  Someone please ask him that. Because I just don’t think it’s an effective messaging platform.  In my lifetime, only one president has won with a hint of the business man platform – W.  And, clearly no one in the G.O.P. race is tying themselves to that messaging boat.

Romney’s speech and messaging people have to seriously consider this business messaging platform because with his wimpy response to the tax return question makes it clear they broke into jail on this one.  That’s what my favorite media messaging trainer calls it when you raise an issue or topic then run away from the follow on questions that ensue.

Maybe I’m wrong?  A few years ago the idea ‘POTUS’ referring to a black man seemed implausible.

Perhaps there is ‘hope’ for a Mormon venture capitalist.

 – Jose Mallabo

Photo credit: Vanity Fair magazine, Feb. 2012

, , , , ,

No Comments